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Entries in expat parenting (6)

Tuesday
Mar262013

An Incomplete List of The Ways In Which I'm an Unfit Parent in Indonesia:

Well, we've finally clawed our way out of that great cave of suffering otherwise known as the Epic Nine Day Fever And Resultant Absence From School and OMG YOU'RE DRIVING ME BONKERS PLEASE STOP WHINING AND TOUCHING ALL THE THINGS. Hooray! Stella's well again! And can go to school! (Just in time for me to get sick, and then discover, at a suspiciously empty looking school-drop off point that, in fact, it's Easter Break. Ummm, duh.)

I play fairly fast and easy with The Gods of Childhood Illness, laughing in the face of germs, dropped toys, and shared drink. You know, it's prison rules in here. I've watched as my blatant disregard for trifectic dangers of cold, wind, and wet hair have been the cause of much anxiety amongst  Indonesian friends and childcare professionals; they side-eye my insouciance and declare it cause of my child's illness. 
And because I'm the ornery type, and can not abide by rules which do not correspond with my world view, I kind of take pleasure in snubbing conventional wisdom.
And so, without further ado, I'd like to present an Incomplete List of The Ways In Which I'm an Unfit Parent in Indonesia:
Upon waking up, I remove my daughter's diaper and wipe her down with a baby wipe. Two if I'm feeling particularly fastidious. Which is ridiculous because everyone knows that she actually requires at least a bum bath, and better yet a proper morning shower with a good thick lather of soap bubbles. 
I do not insist on multiple hand washings during the day, and am lucky if my kid wipes her hands prior to consuming a meal.
  • I did not bathe my child before bed. 
  • I did bathe my child before bed, but did not allow her hair to dry completely. 
  • I allowed my child outside without a sweater, at complete mercy of the equatorial breezes and warm summer temperatures. Neglectfulness, thy name is ME!
  • I let my daughter get rained on. The next day she got a fever. Causality therefore established, and parenting accreditation revoked. 
  • In order to soothe a sore throat and encourage consumption of calories, I allowed my sick girl to eat ice cream and drink cold milk. Both of which are known evils and cause untold episodes of childhood morbidity. 
  • Despite a slight fever, I let my kid splash in a pool. In 32 / 90 degree heat, thereby tempting both fate and further compilations of the illness already brought about by poor parenting choices and exposure to cold / wind / rain.

I dunno. I'm not inclined to buy into the notion that cold / wetness / wind causes illness, the fact that on two sererate occasions my kid got rained on and then got sick (fever, and then higher fever + ear infection) might have me re-evaluating my position on the matter. And so might this, the face of a sick and totaly pissed two-year-old.

My fault. Sorry kid.

 

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Wednesday
Mar202013

I don't know how to talk about money.

About a month ago, Stella received her very first hong bao, a tiny red envelope stuffed with 40 000 rupiah in celebration of the year of the snake. Forty thousand rupiah sounds like a pretty sum. And actually, it is here. 

Forty thousand could be a day's wages. It could feed a family. It could transport a weary traveler halfway across Java. 

 

But in the US, it might only buy a medium sized frappuchccino. 

 

Stella's red envelope sits half forgotten on top of her bookshelf. She doesn't know it's there. She doesn't know she has money waiting for her. I haven't gotten her a piggy bank, I haven't told her about the spend, save, give system, I haven't really mentioned it. And that is mostly because I don't know how to talk to her about money.

 

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On Sunday morning, we took Stella out for a swim. We kicked and twirled and splashed and dove, fresh in the face of the equatorial sun.  As we swam, young men were toiling at transforming the modernist pool-side event hall into a classical European palace. A new facade was installed, complete with a two-story-high picture frame ready for the professional photographer to snap images of happy guests in too-short dresses and false eyelashes. There were spheres made from roses hanging from every tree. Lights ready for glittering. A walk way created. Everything perfectly sparkly pink ready for an evening celebration.

 

As we put our girl to bed Sunday night, the booming base was broken occasionally by the MC who presided over the party getting underway one story below us. A birthday party for a 17 year-old girl. 

 

A birthday part that, no doubt, cost much more than my husband and I could earn in a month.

 

 

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On Saturday afternoon I took Stella to the grocery store. Blue skies turned pea-soup dark and opened to tropical downpour. Traffic was terrible, as it always is when it rains. Stopped as the line of cars snaked around a traffic circle, a group of children approached the car, pressing up against the glass with their hands shielding their eyes for a better view inside. They were gesturing, making the universal sign for money money, food, please, eat, money, food, miss, please, eat, miss, food.

 

I searched for a box of raisins that I usually have stashed at the bottom of my bag, but found nothing. I said, sorry, I don't have anything to give you. My personal rule is to give only food to children, never money. They gestured harder, waved at Stella, smiled, waved, money, money, please, miss, food, money.

 

Stella turned to me and said, "Dese are mine fwiends."  

 

I nodded, and told her "That's right," because I still haven't figured out the right words for this type of moment. I still haven't figured out how to tell her that these kids maybe don't have a mummy and a papi, a home, toys, dinner. These kids are just like you, kind and good and worthy, but they want your money. 

 

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I got a text from my ojek driver today asking for help. On Sunday while we were splashing in the pool, he wrecked his motorcycle. A car made a careless turn and swerved into him, throwing him into the air, before speeding away. His phone and his bike were both broken, both his lifelines to income. His shoulder was injured and he hadn't been to the doctor yet.

 

People like my ojek driver, people who are good and kind humans, well they can be ruined in an instant. You can tell them, you should have saved money, you should have a safety net. But the truth is they don't have access to fat ofshore bonds, QROPS pensions, or international health care, let alone bank accounts or a simple doctor's visit. People like my ojek driver and his family might eat everything they earn in a day. 

 

The driver asked me to borrow some money, just a little over twice the amount my daughter was given as a gift for Chinese New Year. I felt uncomfortable and uncertain about this transaction, because I'm not accustomed to people I don't know very well asking to borrow money, because I feel guilty about how much I have, and how little he does, because I didn't want a loan to stomp on our relationship, because I resented him asking, because I knew I should give. 

 

I felt uncomfortable also because I don't know how to talk about money. I don't know how to explain to my child why a 17 year-old gets a birthday party that could feed an entire village and another and another while the man who drives me to the gym can't afford to pay a doctor to examine his shoulder. I don't know how to tell her what the right thing to do is. I don't know what the right thing to do is. An act like this won't bring someone out of poverty. It won't solve his problems. But maybe it will show him that we're kind?

 

The only thing I could do was take my girl with me when I went to bring him the money. One crisp red bill changed hands. He tickled my girl's cheek, then looked me in the eyes and said thank you. The next few rides will be free. 

 

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but all content, opinions, and allegations are mine, and mine alone. Thank you to the kind people at WhichOffshore.com for sponsoring this post and allowing me to make a small income at home. I'm lucky, and I'm beyond thankful. 

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Friday
Dec282012

Merry Tropical Christmas

Oh, Christmas. What can I say about you that hasn't been said before. 

Not much, probably. 

So maybe I'll just show you some pictures.

Lame. Lazy blogger cop out.

Okay, a charming preamble first, perhaps? Fine.

And we're off.

Christmas this year was wonderful, but with a touch of melancholy. My whole family was back in my home town for Christmas. Like everyone. All of them. This is something that NEVER happens any more.

As is tradition, they all gathered at my Auntie's farm house, just like like so many Christmases past. There was a 32 pound turkey, (if you're metric, that's basically gigantic), tractor sleigh rides of questionable safety, a house full of children, and three very empty (figurative) seats.

I really wanted to be back there, feeling the shock of cold in my lungs, and the warmth of family around the huge farmhouse table.

But I also wanted to be here, in my new home, with my husband.

So.

Expat dichotomy.

The only solution to this situation? Do the hell out of Christmas.

See. Doing the hell out of Christmas. I mean, COME ON!, I even made my own crackers. To balance my (imagined) domestic goddessness, please note that there are toddler finger holes in the pie, and none of my glassware matched. That's Real life.

I decided to host Christmas Eve dinner. I have never hosted Christmas dinner. Nor cooked a turkey. (Thank goodness for Mr. Chef.) The last time I was home for Christmas at my Aunt's farmhouse, I was seated at the children's table. This time I was the host. Believe me, the irony was not lost.

I filled our little apartment with lovely new friends, and little babies (which thrilled Stella to no end). We watched a children's choir sing Christmas carols in the hotel lobby (Stella danced her little heart out). We ate our faces off. And the kids tore around the house until they all passed out somewhere around 11 pm. 

  

 

 

Sadly Mr. Chef was working on Christmas Eve (such is the life of chefery), but he did come up to our apartment to cook the turkey, supervise the carving (not a single person in the room knew how to put knife to bird), and then, I'm embarrassed to admit, did the dishes for a meal that he did not even eat while I went to bed. 

The next morning we opened stockings socks (sadly our stockings did not make it in the move, a fact which I discovered only at midnight Christmas Eve. I considered {briefly} sewing some tropical festive batik present sacks, and then thought about my soft pillow.)

In addition to our very non-traditional fishmas stockings, it should also be noted that my child wore this "pwincess" dress for two days straight. I tried to take it off while she slept, but she shot awake and abruptly reprimanded me. 

There was room service breakfast (what a treat!!). Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate. Diabetic coma. More presents. And then naps all around. We rounded out the day with chocolate milkshakes, aannnnnnnd salads for dinner.

  

Waffles. Pastries. Tropical fruits, that like, COME FROM THE TROPICS!! I have yet to stop counting my lucky stars. 

  Stella made out like a bandit in the art supply department. 

Not that I really condone weaponry as a preferred category of toy, but this bubble gun is about the coolest thing ever. Okay. Fine. Whatever. I also want a nurf gun. For me. Santa did not deliver. Jerk.


 Nine out of ten presents are for Miss Stella Bella.


On Christmas all of the usual restrictions go out the window: chocolate for breakfast; party dress pajamas; iPad viewing in the stroller in the living room. Because. I have no idea.


A lazy Christmas afternoon brought to you by a tropical rainstorm.

Testing out her new poster paints. On wrapping paper. Because. 

 

So there you have it. Our little Christmas. We missed our family, but made the most of this amazing tropical life. New friends. Good food. Christmas carols. Poster paint. What more could one ask for?

 

 

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Thursday
Nov222012

Small Style, Leopard Style

You know how I live in the future, right? Well, I've already done and dusted Thanksgiving. So yeah, take that, Western-dwelling folk. Ha!

Since we are neither American, nor do we live in America, and I had a major sickie baby on my hands, our celebration was rather unorthodox, involving watching and re-watching the first half of Mary Poppins about a billion time because the disk is broken and ahhh, meh, let's just watch it again, shall we?

We also tried our hand at salt dough Christmas ornaments, which in my head looked something like this, but in reality looked like the handiwork of a five-year-old monkey. Which goes to show that I should just stick to crafts that involve staple guns, because nope. Glitter and ribbon just give me rage poops.

I did, however, make a batch of cookies, and then proceeded to eat more cookies than can be reasonably fit into one human. In keeping with the season and all.

Because Stella Bella was sick, we stayed home in pjs and a tee-shirt covered in orange stains for most of the day. I did, however, wipe her nose, hand her a cookie or two, and then dress her up in a cute outfit,  so that I could take pictures for Small Style. You know. Keeping it real.

Here she is. Posing like a boss.

 

And now she's saying MILE!!!!

 

And yeah. I die. Dead. In my boots. Holy cow. This kid.

 

Stella Wore

Top // Polarn O. Pyret

Bottom // Zara

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go nurse a cookie belly. With another cookie. Okay. BYE!

 

 

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Monday
Nov052012

You have a cute son who is actually a daughter. #NaBloPoMo

My girl and I got into a taxi this morning on the way to pre-school. She went through her usual routine, saying "Good-bye new one house! See you way-ter new one house!" before breaking into a rousing rendition of the Wheels On the Bus, and the taxi driver looked back in the mirror and asked me, "How old is your son?"

 

Boy outfit.

After so many years in Asia, gender mix-ups no longer catch me off guard. Many languages do not have gendered pronouns like in English, and so learning to differentiate between him and her, his and hers, he and she is not that simple a task. But this driver had a great grasp of English, and he said "son." The driver obviously thought that my "she" was a "he."

 

Which I mean, is totally ridiculous, right? She was wearing a dress! Albeit a white and blue dress, but a dress nonetheless. 

 

Again with the boy outfits!

I've had a fair few conversations with Stella's nanny about this. Nanny laughs at me, and my strange, semi-feminist, 'progressive', anti-pink ways. I don't think Nanny appreciates my disdain for ruffles and pink. I suspect that for her, it's just part of the weird foreigner package, along with not eating rice, or being a wee sacredy kitten who can not handle fiery burning spice. 

 

You see, here in Asia, notions of gender are much more codified than they are in the West. Girls wear pink, boys wear blue. NBD. Oh, and PS, seven-year-old girls also wear high heals. 

 

Before you go telling me about systemised gender stereotypes and inequalities, let me just state that I've seen this girls = pink boys = blue pattern equally in places like China where women hold a good deal of power as in places like Japan where women are sidelined almost completely.  

 

Boy.

Now, let's be clear. I do adore a tasteful hair bow, and a pair of sparely shoes as much as the next person. And I fully intend to enrol my girl in ballet solely for the purpose of getting her into a tutu. I just believe in moderation. Balance. A bit of blue for every bit of pink. It's not that I ban ruffles and dolls outright, but I am mindful of hoisting artificial notions about gender expectations on tiny, innocent child, who has yet to form her own ideas about what she wants out of life, and the possibilities that are open to her.

 

So, in this vein, she wears a lot of blue and green, and not a lot of pink. 

 

This, coupled with her tendency for wild hair, refusal to bow down to a clip or a barrette, and instance on wearing boy shoes, is apparently the source of the problem. 

 

Nanny, unfortunately bears the brunt of inquiring comments, fielding off remarks of "cute boy!" When it is relived that Nanny's charge is actually a girl, she's judged for her inability to dress her take-care-kid in appropriately pink and sparkly attire. People outright ask Nanny why she doesn't put a clip in her hair? Why she dresses her kid in shorts?

 

Ummm, okay. This is sufficiently girl.

So, not wanting to reveal the fact that neither one of us can hold this baby down and clip a little tiny bow on her head (because let's face it, for all my posturing, that is the real reason behind wild hair it's lack of adornments) she blames me, and my strange, feminist, foreign ways.

Tuesday
Oct092012

Okay, okay, okay, My Boobs are Calling Uncle!

If you've been around these parts long enough, you'll have me firmly pigeoned in the hippie-granola-dust-parenting hole. I'm the kind of neurotic, cloth diapering, amber baby necklace buying, organic leather soft shoe dressing, homemade baby food making, babywearing, exclusive breastfeeding, co-sleeping, gentle disciplining, nutcase that makes you shake your head and worry for the future of humanity.  

 

Though now, suddenly, I think I've found my hippie-BS-granola-fairy-dust parenting limit. And that limit is a 27 month old toddler, who upon watching me get out of the shower this morning, pointed at my naked chest and proclaimed, Della's ammm ammm. You see, she thinks she owns my boobies.

 

This type of behaviour is not limited to the privacy of our home. If she's feeling particularly jaunty, and comfortable with the company we're keeping, she likes to show off her goods, by pulling down my shirt, tapping me right on the money parts, and saying "Wook! Della's ammm ammm, sees?" Or, perhaps she's feeling uneasy in the silence of an elevator ride. She'll turn to a stranger, point to my chest, and tell him, "Ammm Ammm". And PS, it's almost always a him. A him in a business suit, the kind that announces that all things hippie-granola-dust are most decidedly not his jam.

 

You see, my girl is still nursing, at least three times a day. And if she had her way, she'd be permanently attached to my chest, drinking while twisting and turning, double back flip pike position, until my ol' nips returned to their war-ravaged newborndom, and I cried uncle while clutching a tube of Lansinoh.  Oy. 

What I'm trying to tell you is I want to wean my kid. But she has other ideas. Namely, never weaning, ever ever ever.

 

I'm kinda left at a loss for what to do. I've looked around the usual haunts for tips and tricks on weaning my girl off ammm amm. But to no avail. She'll quite happily eat all sorts of solid foods, varied and sundry, but she will not give up on her most treasured source of nutrition and comfort.

 

So, I'm left wondering if I should try something radical. Perhaps the Japanese method of weaning whereby I affix band-aids to my nips, draw a Minnie Mouse face on my boob, and tell my kid that her Amm Amm has been replaced, but look who's here instead?!! Mimmmmie Mouse!

 

Or, do I go with the Indonesian practice of rubbing bitter herbs all over my chest? Perhaps the failsafe Turkish method of spreading tomato paste on my tas?

 

Do I just need to go on vacation for a while, with a box of Sudafed and some cabbage in my bra, and return when I'm all dried up?

 

Or perhaps, and most likely, I just need to woman up, take it like a chick, deal with the occasional awkward elevator moment, and just wait until my child finally decides that she's ready to kick the habit. Oh geeze. Pass me the Lansinoh.

 

In the interest of full disclosure, I was paid to write this post on behalf of Lansinoh.co.uk. All content, opinions, and hyperbole are mine, and mine alone.